Utah Boy Scouts not losing leaders, troops following change in membership policy

Published: Tuesday, May 28 2013 3:55 p.m. MDT

Boy Scouts salute early Saturday morning, May 21, 2011 during New Jersey\'s Boy Scouts Camporee in Sea Girt, N.J. (Mel Evans, Associated Press) Boy Scouts salute early Saturday morning, May 21, 2011 during New Jersey\'s Boy Scouts Camporee in Sea Girt, N.J. (Mel Evans, Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY — Executives of Utah's three Boy Scout councils said only a handful of local adult leaders have quit and no troops have withdrawn from the program as the result of a new membership policy regarding sexual orientation.

"Out of 100,000 (Scout leaders) in the whole state, we've only had several," said Rick Barnes, head of the Great Salt Lake Council. He would not specify specific numbers.

Barnes, Utah National Parks Council executive Dave Pack and Allen Endicott, head of the Trapper Trails Council, discussed in an interview Tuesday the impacts of a resolution that changed Scouting's long-standing policy barring openly gay youth. BSA's national council adopted the new policy last week, accepting all young men regardless of sexual orientation. It will take effect Jan. 1, 2014.

"We're seeing tremendous support from our volunteers. I have had people on both sides of the issue contact me, as you would expect them to do. But overall, we're seeing great support for Scouting here in Utah," Endicott said.

Pack said the issue gives local leaders an opportunity to reflect on why they're part of the organization. They have to decide if they really want to continue to affect the lives of young men "because what better place than the Boy Scouts" for teaching values and character, he said.

The three councils oversee Scouting for 200,000 youth in Utah and parts of Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Wyoming. The three executives estimate that religious groups sponsor at least 98 percent of the troops in Utah.

The resolution did not change the policy regarding Scout leaders and volunteers. The BSA says it does not ask would-be volunteers about their sexual orientation but does not permit openly gay adults from serving in volunteer or leadership positions.

"To be honest we'd just as soon not talk about the sexualization of the Boy Scouts. That's not an issue we want to talk about. We want to have an example for youth from it's adult leaders that are going to teach them the core values of Scouting, duty to god and staying true to those principles of the Scout oath and law," Pack said.

Regarding youth, the Scouts don't discuss sexuality and won't now as result of the new policy, Barnes said. He said he's not aware of any boy being removed from the program for "gay tendencies," and Pack and Endicott, too, said they have not seen that happen.

Barnes said the new policy clarifies and strengthens behavior.

"We're not basing this on a label," he said. "We're basing it on conduct, how a boy acts not what someone says that he is."

The council leaders said they don't anticipate the policy will hurt fundraising.

"We've had a few people waiting on the sidelines," Barnes said. But Scouting, Pack said, doesn't rely on corporate contributions as much as it does individual donors.

"Because we're kind of a lightning rod for many issues in the Boy Scouts, individuals tend to be our core at giving us the resources we need to deliver the programs that the youth need in our community," he said.

Even though Scouting might be controversial at times, there are many people willing to support it financially, Pack said.

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